The improbable season for Ohio State has finally come to an end following a 90-84 loss to Gonzaga Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga opened with a 15-0 lead and it was a full-on fistfight between the Bulldogs and the Buckeyes from that point on.
Ohio State, who was led by Keita Bates-Diop in possibly his final game at OSU with 28 points, did not get on the scoreboard until the 14:20 mark of the first half.
The Buckeyes ultimately had no answers for Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. or Rui Hachimura, who scored 28 and 25 points, respectively.
Despite the 15-0 start, Ohio State did eventually cut the lead to seven points a couple of times in the first half before trailing by 11 points at the intermission.
The second half is where the Buckeyes made their stand.
Ohio State opened the half with a three-pointer from C.J. Jackson. Jackson scored 18 points on the night, but made just 4-of-12 field goal attempts.
Within two-and-a-half minutes, the Buckeyes had it down to two points at 48-46, but they struggled to finally get over the top. The Bulldogs went on a 4-0 run for a six-point lead, which was then cut in half by another three from Jackson. A jumper from Kam Williams — who scored 19 points — made it a one-point game at 52-51.
Then, with 10:35 remaining in the game, Williams hit a three-pointer to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game, at 56-54. Gonzaga quickly tied it up at 58-58, but the Buckeyes opened up a four-point lead following a layup by Andrew Dakich and a jumper by Bates-Diop. Two free throws and a layup by Norvell tied it back up once again.
Bates-Diop then went on a 5-0 run by himself, giving the Buckeyes their largest lead of the game at 67-62.
And this is when Gonzaga responded with their full might. While Ohio State spent the entire game committing foolish fouls and missing point-blank shots, the Bulldogs began drilling shots from all angles. They finished the game on a 28-17 run over the game’s final six minutes.
In his final game as a Buckeye, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate fouled out, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds and four assists.
Ohio State finished 25-9 in a season that was never expected and far beyond what anybody could have anticipated.
Four months after losing to Gonzaga by nearly 30 points, this team had a five-point lead on the Bulldogs with six minutes to go. The Buckeyes fought in this game, just as they have fought all season long.
[Photo courtesy OhioStateBuckeyes.com]